Accountants as Salespeople: 5 Tips for Acing the Interview

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As IMA’s senior vice president of operations and CFO, I interview candidates for many positions in our organization, including our open accounting/finance positions. Over the years, I’ve realized that the most successful candidates for any job approach the interview the way a strong salesperson handles an important opportunity.

Like a salesperson landing the deal of a lifetime, you will have to “pitch” the technical skills on your résumé—your credentials, expertise with software, and ability to produce results—during an interview for an accounting position. Here are some practical tips that can give you a competitive edge.

 

1. Be polite to the receptionist.

He or she is the first of many “gatekeepers” you’ll meet. You’ll probably need to show the receptionist or security personnel your ID—so don’t leave your wallet in the car! Making a good impression on the receptionist won’t guarantee you a position with the firm, but if the receptionist doesn’t like you, others will hear about it, and your chances will be diminished.

 

2. Be on time for the interview.

Happy business woman showing clock

Effective salespeople are never late to an important meeting. In fact, you should be a half hour early, and be gracious. The HR representative will insist that you fill out an application before anyone talks to you. Most companies use a form that asks for information not on your résumé, including salary history and reasons for leaving your previous positions.

Sometimes applicants with strong résumés balk at the application form—they want to go straight to the meeting with the executive team. This raises red flags; the last thing a firm wants is to hire a prima donna at any level.

 

3. Be accurate, thorough, and neat with the application form.

The form is a window into how well-organized you are and how neatly and accurately you’ll handle the reporting responsibilities of the Finance team. A recruiter once told me that whenever he was interviewing for controller positions he would walk the candidate to his or her car and take a peak inside. If the car were full of piles of junk, he wouldn’t present the candidate. Every salesperson knows that neatness counts. This is particularly true if you’re trying to land a job in accounting.

 

4. Prepare for the interview.

interviewGreat salespeople invest in preparation for their meetings. The most important question I ask applicants is, “What would you like to know about our organization?” This is an invitation to engage in a dialogue and to demonstrate the work the candidate has done to prepare for the interview.

The people with the best questions are those who have researched the history of IMA, the CMA program, our global membership network, and our products and services. A thoughtful compliment about our website goes a long way. People who have clearly spent time preparing for the interview, looking at the website, and thinking about questions they’d like to ask have the curiosity and drive we want on our team.

 

5. Ease awkward situations to establish rapport.

The best salespeople are as good at listening as they are at speaking. Once you’ve made it to the interview, you may realize that the hiring manager lacks interviewing skills. Don’t be judgmental; have compassion. He or she may be new to the role or may experience so little turnover on the team that interviewing opportunities are rare.

Also, many hiring managers find the interviewing process very stressful. If there are awkward pauses or if the interviewer runs out of questions for you, here is another salesperson’s tip: people love to talk about themselves. Ask questions about the interviewer’s own career path. Try to find out what motivates him or her and what challenges are trying to be solved. The goal is to establish rapport. Then you can turn back the conversation to the ways you can solve the interviewer’s challenges.

 

Sealing the Deal

Hiring managers are inundated with applications every time they post a job opening. If you are fortunate enough to make it through the initial screening process to get an interview, these 5 tips will increase your chances of landing the job. Only after incorporating these tips can you effectively “pitch” your product and close the deal by showing how your unique skills and abilities are the perfect fit.

 

Written by Doreen Remmen, CMA, CAE

 

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Cyberhygiene in Small Businesses: What You Need to Know

Technology helps push business forward. Yet, at the same time, it makes us—and our companies—vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breeches.

Many small business owners don’t think they’re targets for cyberfraud because of their size. On the contrary, hackers see small businesses as easy targets because they lack the resources, personnel, and/or budget to ensure proper safeguards.

And, because hackers go where the most valuable information is (i.e., financial and customer data), accounting and finance professionals are the most vulnerable to these threats. Therefore, it’s essential for those working in small businesses to fully understand cyberhygiene.

Medic Robot. Laptop repair concept.

What Is Cyberhygiene?

Cyberhyiene means ensuring best practices are in place to properly safeguard your most valuable data. Implementing software that can track traffic, has antivirus capability, and/or can report on machine operations; hiring internal or external IT professionals trained in security basics to constantly survey the cybercrime landscape; and updating your cybercrime tactics can help protect your company.

Hackers use sophisticated tools to launch their attacks and prey on busy professionals who might not second-guess what they’re clicking on. Phishing scams that trick people into clicking a link containing malware and ransomware attacks that hold hostage company information after clicking an infected link are two popular cyberattack schemes.

Who Is Affected?

Small businesses must change their mind-set from “we’re too small to be noticed” to “is a cyberattack already happening to us?” Reputation damage, loss of customer trust, and the financial impact of a cyberattack are devastating for small businesses.

When a data breach occurs, the company’s reputation is damaged and its customers become less trusting. It’s the company’s responsibility to protect customer data. Therefore, accounting and finance professionals should take the lead in creating and implementing a risk-management strategy, such as the COSO Internal Control—Integrated Framework.

How Can Cyberattacks Be Prevented?

The combination of the amount of data and changes in how we collect, store, share, and access it makes us vulnerable. Social media is an increasingly important communications tool for many small businesses; however, they should be cautious as to what information they share and who has access to the accounts. Companies should establish an employee policy about social media etiquette to protect their data and brand.

Password Box in Internet Browser

Another cyberhygiene best practice at the employee-level is to regularly change passwords and to create a password using a combination of 10 characters that represent a phrase or set of items that you can relate to but have nothing to do with your personal or business life. For instance, you can use the first four digits of a previous zip code in combination with street names from that zip code in an order that you will remember.

Staying Ahead of the Game

Hackers have been scamming people for years, but as technology continues to evolve, so will hackers’ schemes. To stay one step ahead, continuously monitor the cyberthreat landscape, stay up-to-date on current trends in security, and close any knowledge gaps by taking advantage of education. Make yourself familiar with the various tools that monitor the landscape.

IMA and its Technology Solutions and Practices Committee work hard to bring education about cybersecurity to our members. In July, IMA will be launching a new webinar series called “Tech Talk Mondays,” which will feature technology professionals who ensure cyberhyiene in their companies. Stay tuned for more details.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills

 

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The Importance of Integrity in a Certification Program

At IMA, we’re dedicated to quality and providing the most prestigious management accounting certification in the world: the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant). For more than 40 years, we have been building a professional certification program that is a true reflection of the management accounting profession. And over the years, the standard for earning the CMA has remained high.

I attribute this continuous high standard and respected reputation to the integrity of the CMA exam. An exam has integrity if it’s both valid and reliable, which in turn leads to consistent outcomes. When professionals pass an exam—and earn a certification—that has integrity, they have more confidence in their day-to-day work, and employers identify them as experts in the field.

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THE CMA’S INTEGRITY…

To earn the CMA, professionals need to pass the challenging two-part exam, fulfill an educational requirement, and meet an experience requirement. In addition, CMAs commit to the ethical standards in the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice and an annual continuing education requirement.

To ensure the CMA validates competence in the in-demand skills needed by management accountants, we regularly update the questions and the content specification outline to reflect the most current knowledge and skill requirements.

These high standards advance the management accounting profession and the careers of those working in the field. A certification with high standards of integrity and trust is a signal to employers that you’ve taken and passed a rigorous exam and sets you apart from your peers.

 

…INCREASES YOUR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

comp_advantThroughout the years, we’ve ensured an unwavering attention to integrity by using robust processes to ensure the questions on the CMA exam are psychometrically reliable, ensuring strong internal controls at testing centers, and committing to continuous improvement.

In addition, we haven’t grandfathered anyone into the CMA program, meaning that every professional holding the CMA has taken an exam, and no one has earned our designation by simply writing a check.

Adding those three letters to the end of your name shows employers that you have taken a rigorous, relevant, and trusted exam and have the skills necessary to drive business performance. Employers see you as a trusted business partner.

 

…IMPROVES YOUR CAREER

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Investing in your career really pays off. Not only do CMAs earn an average of 61% more in total annual compensation than their noncertified peers, but they also enjoy faster advancement opportunities and employer recognition.

When you start searching for a credential with integrity, make sure you choose the right one for you and your career. Earning a certification with integrity gives you the confidence you need to take your career to the next level. And since the CMA is a global certification, you can take it with you wherever you go.

Nearly 50,000 of your peers in more than 100 countries have earned their CMA. We’re confident that those who have passed the exam have demonstrated competence in the management accounting and financial management skills necessary to perform at a consistently high level.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA

 

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How to Become a Stronger Leader

“And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.”Libba Bray

One moment is all it takes to be inspired. That quote from author Libba Bray got me thinking about the people who have inspired change in me over the years and how their leadership qualities have influenced me to become a better leader every day. For me, these three leadership qualities stand out to me as most vital for success:

 

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INTEGRITY

As financial professionals working in business, we agree to abide by the highest standards of ethics, integrity, and trust. Having integrity means you are a trustworthy, reliable, and credible leader, especially in our field. Accountants at all levels must uphold ethical practices to do their jobs the right way or else they face high penalties and damage to their reputation.

There is nothing more important than your brand and your reputation. My positions in industry, where I worked at one of the world’s most trusted companies, taught me that “the good guys” can win in the market—a company that upholds its values will succeed. The collateral damage from a competitor’s fraudulent behavior is real. How you achieve outcomes is as important as the outcomes themselves.

 

Businessmen is holding out a red heart

PASSION

Passion is contagious. If you’re passionate about what you do, chances are you’ll inspire others to be passionate, too. Being a passionate—and compassionate—leader shows your employees that you’re invested in them and in the team, always seeking to build followership, as coined by leadership guru John C. Maxwell.

Passion to me is about a genuine, unwavering, and relentless desire to be a stronger family member and businessperson regardless of the status you have achieved. When I joined IMA, coming from a wonderful business career that included being CFO of a multi-billion-dollar operation, I had zero professional certifications. When I saw the passion of IMA’s volunteers for the value of professional certifications, it inspired me to earn the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) and CAE (Certified Association Executive) credentials. Now I’m even more passionate because I better understand the industry and the work that our members do.

 

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COMMITMENT

Commitment comes in many forms: commitment to projects, people, business relationships, and more. When you lead by example, your team can see that you are committed and are working hard to achieve success. A strong leader should also be committed to being ethical and courageous, always inspiring a culture of challenge. Keep your promises, admit your mistakes, continuously learn, and build a respectful rapport with your team.

I have faced intense competition in my industry positions and at IMA. I have learned that commitment to people, mission, and strategy is key to sustainable success. When times get tough, you really learn who you can count on and how resilient your strategy is. I am a firm believer in FIERCE competition (Focused on mission, Innovative, Entrepreneurial, Respectful, Courageous, and Empathetic).

 

Change, One Moment at a Time

Having integrity, passion, and commitment will build a well-rounded base for being a strong leader. Integrity allows you to uphold your ethical values and build your reputation as a trusted business professional. Exuding genuine passion and commitment for your work fosters a unified, mutually respectful business culture. You can advance the management accounting profession by becoming a stronger leader. It only takes a moment, a gesture, or a person to make a difference.

What or who inspires you to be a better leader?

 

Written by Jeff Thomson

 

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5 Tips for Your Next Networking Event

As the leader of IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo, I oversee the robust 3.5-day program that includes more than 50 educational sessions, a variety of networking opportunities, “meet and greets” with keynote speakers, and other special attendee events. An important value of our conference, or any in-person business event, is the opportunity to network with like-minded professionals in our field.

If you’re uncomfortable by the idea of networking and approaching people you don’t know, here are some tips you can use at your next conference or in-person business event.

1.    If offered, attend the orientation session for first-time attendees. This will acquaint you with the event’s agenda as well as other attendees in the same position as you. When the time is right, introduce yourself to others.  Some “ice breaking” tips include sharing your name, where you’re from, where you work, and your role. Then ask others those questions, listening carefully for commonalities and differences in your backgrounds. Oftentimes, further conversation occurs naturally after this point and first-timers frequently plan to connect again during or after the event.

2.    Before or after a presentation, start a conversation with someone sitting nearby about the presentation topic. Start out by introducing yourself and asking about his/her interest in the session. If you have specific questions or insights about the session, offer that as further information, or ask how the session relates to his/her job responsibilities or career aspirations.  meeting presenter

3.    After a session that sparks your interest, introduce yourself to the presenter and ask specific questions regarding the concepts covered or how you can obtain more information. Offer your business card so that you can continue sharing material on the topic.

4.    During networking events such as “meet and greets,” group meals, or cocktail parties, seek out individuals who are standing alone, who you haven’t met, or who you’ve met in a prior session. Besides introducing yourself, inquire what sessions he/she has participated in, what his/her impressions were, and what he/she has learned. Share your thoughts also.

5.    Small group activities like conversational roundtables or exhibitor showcases allow for additional one-on-one time with other attendees as well as opportunities to meet with exhibitors to learn about their services. In addition to the above examples, other conversation starters include inquiring about new industry or regulatory events, discussing work challenges you may be experiencing, or learning more about the organization hosting the event to better understand other services of interest to you.

Make It Count

When you feel the conversation has ended, offer to connect on LinkedIn or exchange Businessmen exchanging business cardsbusiness cards. And don’t forget to follow up! Starting and sustaining a conversation with business professionals in your industry is an important way to grow, build your self-confidence, and expand your career horizons. So go ahead and mingle on!

To jumpstart building your networking skills, join us at IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo held in Las Vegas on June 18-22, 2016. Register now for your chance to network with the profession’s top thought leaders and professional colleagues.

Written by Debbie Warner, CPLP

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Why Diversity and Inclusion is Essential for Global Organizations

With changing technology and emerging global markets, it’s common in today’s world to find yourself working with or for people of different cultures and backgrounds. Therefore, the importance of adopting a diverse culture isn’t only a “nice to have” but a “must have” in order to have mutual trust, respect, and understanding of each other and to ultimately serve your members better.

To show how we embrace the various backgrounds of our members, IMA recently created the Diversity Thought Leadership Pipeline Committee, which celebrates the uniqueness of each culture within our membership. As quoted in the Committee’s governance statement, diversity involves establishing an environment where there are equitable opportunities for individuals from various backgrounds to express their thoughts and ideas.

Creating a committee and investing in a diversity and inclusion initiative strengthens an organization’s global position. It makes a statement among members that your organization isn’t only focusing on the needs of members in the U.S. At IMA, we pride ourselves on being a diverse company in a global marketplace.

So what does it take to be considered diverse? Let’s break down the Committee’s governance statement to find out:

“Through the backgrounds and experiences of our global membership base, we gain perspective and insights that impact the strategic and operational direction of our organization.”Innovation-Gears---1

A company that has a diverse, global membership network has a 360-degree view of the industry and the people who work to improve it. Having a broad membership base gives you various perspectives on issues facing your company or industry.

A company environment that fosters diversity also fosters innovation. A diverse staff will undoubtedly propose new, innovative ideas that can expand your company’s overall contribution. Your company will gain valuable insights from members and staff who come from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

“The global governance of IMA acknowledges and embraces the diversity of our membership and considers an inclusive atmosphere essential.”

SpiceStarIt’s important to have a diverse board of directors that represents your stakeholders because you need various opinions to operate as an unbiased organization. When your board members and top management are from different backgrounds, experience, and generations, you’ll better understand the marketplace and what your stakeholders expect from your business. IMA benefits from a diverse board to get input on what products and services should be offered to members from different regions.

“Our global diversity also provides new ideas and alternative perspectives that expand IMA’s contribution to the profession.”

A diverse company offers products, services, and events that appeal to a wide variety of professionals. Knowing your audience—their background, culture, and objectives—is the first step in producing and delivering these offerings. Then work on understanding how your audience likes to receive this information. IMA offers continuing professional education (CPE) credit through many avenues, including live and on-demand webinars and in-person events such as instructor-led courses and conferences. IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo alone includes 50+ sessions about management accounting competencies as well as sessions about soft skills training. Another example is IMA’s Women in Accounting Leadership Series, which is a platform for discussing the issues women face as being a growing part of IMA’s diverse membership.

The Future of Your Organization Depends on Diversity

Similar to other initiatives, global companies can benefit from developing a diversity committee that focuses on developing training programs or other outputs to strengthen cultural awareness among employees and volunteers. Having such a committee or initiative confirms a company’s commitment to global diversity and inclusion by projecting that your organization values the differences in people.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

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5 Tips For Being a Thought Leader

What does being a thought leader mean to you? For me, it means being seen as the go-to source of information and being a beacon for future generations, whether that be teaching in the classroom or being a mentor in industry. Thought leadership can take many forms, including conducting in-depth research of tomorrow’s trends, publishing thought-provoking articles, and sharing knowledge with others on an individual basis. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up during my career as a professor and as IMA’s vice president of research and policy and professor-in-residence.

1. Stand out from the crowd
It’s important to keep an eye on competitors, but you’ll get more value out of creatingGroup Of Business People Listening To Speaker Giving Presentationdiverse, original material. Whether you’re speaking at an event or to your coworkers, offering relevant, timely, and accurate thought leadership shows that you are invested in your audience and their future. For example, IMA’s research is funded in-house and is authentic, original material.

2. Prove your credibility
Your products need to be credible. Conduct your own research, surveys, or studies andShot of a young female assistant using a tablet with her boss working in the backgroundprove that you’re capable of getting real results—that’s credibility. Also, getting your name out there by publishing articles, presenting at conferences, and speaking at events helps you become more credible. Being a thought leader means you’re the go-to person for information in your industry.

3. Show your passion
If you aren’t passionate about the thought leadership you’re producing, why produce it?  Make sure that what you’re writing, speaking about, or researching is worth your time—because if it isn’t, your audience won’t be passionate about it either. Thought leadership is only valuable if people acknowledge it. Showing your audience that you’re passionate about your work will also increase engagement, both online and offline.

4. Engage your audience
Understanding your audience’s needs will help you produce better and more relevant thought leadership. What do they care about most? You can find out by sending themGreat presentation! Group of happy business people in smart casual wear sitting together at the table and applauding to someonean online survey, or engage with them on social media, at in-person events, or via e-mail or phone calls. This will help you create loyal, long-term stakeholders that follow your thought leadership. In addition, studying the trends will help you plan for future research, publications, or speaking engagements.

5. Pass it on
Students and young professionals are the future of our profession. Passing on knowledge from educator to student, from supervisor to employee, and from peer to peer is an important responsibility of being a thought leader. Knowledge sharing is also one of the best ways to become a thought leader, especially since the growth of the digital landscape has made it a lot easier and quicker to share information.

Be a Thought Leader
Becoming a thought leader doesn’t happen over night. It takes time to build your brand and become recognized in your field. IMA has become a thought leader in management accounting over the past 97 years. Our thought-provoking, relevant, and timely publications contribute to our overall success, and it all started with the goal to one day become a thought leader. Anyone can become a thought leader if they’re passionate about and persistent to achieving their goals.

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson

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